It can be hard to stay healthy on vacation when you’re bombarded by restaurants, food stands, and ice cream windows. But in my opinion, staycations are the best of both worlds.
Maybe I’m biased (because travel with six kids) but hear me out…
You can have access to your real food kitchen while also being able to explore and enjoy the area. There’s zero travel expenses (or time lost to travel). And if you aren’t having a good time, the cancellation policy is very generous!
What Is a Staycation?
A staycation is a vacation you have while staying in or near your home. Staycations have become more and more popular every year as a way of saving money, avoiding the stress of traveling, and still getting to enjoy your time off.
The best staycation we ever had involved nothing more than switching off the phones and planning several days of family fun. We went to the swimming pool each morning, had campfires and backyard games at night, and pitched a tent in the backyard for a stay-at-home camping trip. (Sleeping in the tent = optional!)
The kids loved that they had all of our attention, and I loved the break from the daily monotony of to-do lists.
Benefits of Staycations?
The reason for the trend in planning staycations over traditional vacations makes sense. There are a lot of benefits to choosing a staycation:
- Easier travel for families – It’s challenging (to say the least!) to travel far distances with kids or babies. A staycation reduces the stress surrounding travel and allows for more time having fun.
- If you can’t take off entire weeks from work, you could choose several long weekends. Without the cost and hassle of traveling, a long weekend could be enough to refresh and rejuvenate.
- You can bring your pets – No need to find a house sitter or kennel!
- It supports the local economy where you live.
- You may not need as much recuperation time after a staycation. No jet-lag or travel fatigue and less need to adjust to a new climate or culture.
- Save money – If you’re not paying for plane tickets or extra gas for the car, there’s a lot of extra funds to save or use towards other activities.
- Planning is easier – No need to coordinate travel with hotels and activities. You could simply wake up and decide what to do each day. If you prefer a clearer plan, it’s still easy to make one when you know the area.
Another thing to consider is that a staycation (and the cost savings) may mean you can have more than one vacation each year!
How to Plan a Staycation
Planning a staycation is easier than planning a vacation far away, but there are different things to consider. Here are some things to think about when planning a staycation.
Do Your Prep Work
There are some basic needs you can’t ignore just because you’re on vacation. Healthy food, clean clothes, clean dishes, and a reasonably clean environment are some of those. Before taking off for the week think about how those things will be taken care of:
- Food – If you’re not excited about getting take-out or going out to eat for every meal on your staycation (I don’t blame you) there are some things you can do. You could bulk prep some meals the week before your staycation and eat them while on vacation. If extra work before your staycation isn’t possible you could order some meals from a service like Good Kitchen and stash them in the freezer until your staycation begins.
- Laundry – There are a couple ways you can approach this. If you’re staycation-ing for a week or more, you could consider hiring a laundry service. You could also pick one day to do laundry and have a quieter day at home watching movies, reading, etc. If it’s a week or less (or you have enough clothes!) you could make sure all the laundry is done before the staycation and then do the laundry when you “get back.”
- Dishes – If you’re eating out at restaurants, getting take-out or eating freezer meals, there shouldn’t be too many dishes. But if you really want to reduce the amount of work you could also consider disposable dishware and cutlery (preferably compostable).
- Tidying the Home – Whether you’re on vacation or not, you’re going to want a clean environment to relax in. One option is to hire a housekeeper to help with cleaning. At the very least, discuss a minimalist approach to chores and who will be doing what during the time “off” so expectations are clear.
You’ll need to make a budget for your staycation. If you’re staying at your home you won’t need to budget for travel or a hotel stay (unless you want to get a room anyway for a night or the whole week — there are no rules!). But think about other things you’ll want to spend money on.
- Food – Restaurants, takeout, Good Kitchen meals, etc.
- Events and activities – Local attractions like zoos, museums, concerts, amusement parks, etc.
- Services – Housekeeper, laundry service, gardener, etc.
- Entertainment purchases – Consider books, ebooks, music, movies, magazines, etc.
Also consider splurges like spa days, massages, hotels (for a night or the entire week). One great thing about staycations is that you have more money for these kinds of luxuries when you aren’t paying for plane tickets and expensive hotels.
Make Some Rules
It’s easy to embrace “vacation rules” when you’re traveling since your daily routine is usually switched up anyway (no tablets, spending time together as a family, etc.). But when you’re doing a staycation it can be much easier to treat the week like an extended weekend.
If you want a more vacation-like staycation, you have to make a plan and make it clear what the “rules” are for your staycation. Ask yourself these questions:
- When will vacation officially start? Do you want to be “off” as soon as you leave work on Friday? Or do you want to take a day to prepare (by cleaning the house for example) and start the vacation on Sunday?
- Should everyone be together most of the time or is going to visit friends or doing solo activities ok?
- What is the plan for cooking, cleaning, and other household work? You need to decide ahead of time how to deal with it or you could end up spending the week cleaning! Consider making some freezer meals and hiring a housekeeper to take care of these things.
- What are some common activities you want to escape? What are some leisure activities you enjoy that are available around your town?
- Is it ok to check email, use the computer, play video games, watch TV, etc?
- Is it ok to check in on work emails or phone calls?
Setting these rules or guidelines ahead of time will help the whole family be on the same page.
Plan Your Activities
Planning your stay-at-home vacation can be as detailed or flexible as you want. The important thing is to have some sort of a plan.
If your kids are old enough to have an opinion, ask them what they’d like to do during the staycation. Get the grown-ups’ input too. If you thrive with routine and structure, create an itinerary for the week (leave some wiggle room in case of delays). If you’re more spontaneous (or want to try to be) consider creating a list of things everyone wants to do and just pick one or two activities every morning. You could even make it more interesting by letting each member of the family plan one day’s activities. Make sure to plan meals and rest time too.
Summer Staycation Ideas
While a staycation can be any time of year, we live near the beach and tend to staycation in the summer. (If you don’t live near a beach, here’s how to feel like you do.)
It’s amazing how many activities are available right in our hometowns. To find some of these activities and events do a Google search for your town and the activity first. Libraries are also a great place to hear about events (as well as find free or reduced passes for some of them).
- Become a tourist – Look at your town or city as if you’ve never been there. What interesting things have you overlooked?
- Enjoy the outdoors – National parks are a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy a staycation. You can go camping, boating, fishing, and hiking, all in your state’s very own national parks. Bonus: There are big health benefits to time outside!
- Get wet – Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the water! Take a trip to the beach (ocean or lake), play in a brook or creek, go to a waterpark, or just set up a slip and slide in the backyard (a big tarp works in a pinch). If there’s not a public swimming pool in your area, check with schools or private golf courses/health clubs that may offer a pool-only membership or off-peak hours.
- Go to a sporting event – There are many sporting events you can attend from major league baseball to minor league or local teams.
- Play board games – For rainy days consider planning a board game tournament. Each member of the family gets to pick a board game and the player who wins the most games gets a prize (gets to choose where to go for dinner for example).
- Take a factory tour – Many towns and cities have factories that welcome the public in for a tour. You may have to make a reservation beforehand.
- Visit a children’s museum – Children’s museums are a great place to go when it’s too hot or raining outside. They’re also interesting for many ages (adults too) so the whole family will enjoy.
- Have a Netflix movie marathon – Have each family member who is old enough choose a movie. Make pizza or homemade ice cream and have a film festival.
- Check out local events – Check your local community for parades, community theater, flea markets, fairs, festivals, etc. You’d be surprised how many events there are in your town!
- Play games! – Mini-golf, bowling, laser tag, paintball, etc. Or visit a local park and use a feature you haven’t before… maybe the bike paths, tennis courts, or horseshoe pits.
- Go indoor (or outdoor) rock climbing – Indoor rock climbing is a fun and safe way to introduce kids to rock climbing (and let kids take some healthy risks). You may also be able to find an outdoor rock climbing event.
- Shop and cook together – Go to the farmer’s market and cook a meal together with what you find there.
- Go luxurious – Book a spa day, go to a way-to-expensive restaurant, or do something else that is incredibly indulgent. One night at a luxury hotel in the area may be in the budget when the rest of the vacation is on the cheap.
- Have a party – Invite family and friends over for a backyard pool party or BBQ.
- Visit a petting zoo or farm – Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a farm or petting zoo where kids can feed and pet the animals.
- Go to an aquarium – Great for those scorching hot days (hello air conditioning!).
- Pick your own fruit – Depending on the time of year you may be able to pick your own fruits. Make a plan for how and when to use them too (maybe a picnic or hike).
- Have a picnic – Pack up your PYO fruit, and some other healthy lunch foods and head to the park for a picnic.
- Play astronomer – We all know kids don’t go to bed on time in the summer anyway. Consider letting them stay up a bit later to check out the stars. Talk about the constellations and check out NASA to see if the space station will be going overhead in your area.
These are just some of the fun ideas you can use to plan your staycation. If you have a summer bucket list already, this is the perfect time to check off a few of those ideas! Be sure to ask your kids what they want to do too since they’ll likely have ideas you haven’t thought of before!
Final Thoughts on Staycations
Many cultures are better at prioritizing laughter, rest, and community than we are. Let’s learn from them and make the staycation mentality a regular part of our everyday life!
Have you ever planned a staycation? What’s your best advice?